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How To Use This Guide

December 1996

viewer's guide logo
This guide is designed to encourage discussion about issues surrounding teenage sexuality, including HIV transmission, the HIV antibody test, unintended pregnancy, condom use, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and growing up in the age of AIDS. It offers a brief overview of each of these issues, health-related "fast facts", and discussion questions to use in the classroom, at home, or among any group of people interested in developing a greater understanding of these subjects.

The resource section of this guide lists books, organizations, and hotlines that can help answer questions and provide more information. These resources can provide a tremendously valuable source of support in designing school-based programs, talking with your family about sexuality, or starting a peer education program in your community; or they can help you answer health questions of your own.

Read a message from the producer/director of Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death, find out who put together this viewer's guide, and how to order a cassette of the program.

Overcoming Barriers

"If we don't give kids the words, the vocabulary, the information -
and explain in detail on how you protect yourself -
America's kids are going to die."

- Dr. Cydelle Berlin

Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death chronicles a year in the life of STAR Theatre, a teenage theater company that performs for adolescents, with the goal of raising awareness about the risks young people face in the age of AIDS. The documentary combines intimate profiles of the young actors with scenes from their performances. As the film progresses, the audience discovers that the performers are struggling with the same problems that they are addressing on stage.

The issues addressed in Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death make many people uncomfortable, but HIV/AIDS has made it crucial to discuss these issues frankly, especially with young people. Because humans are sexual beings from birth and throughout life, it is never too early to begin discussions about sexuality. Some adults fear that providing teens with explicit information about contraception and safer sex will encourage them to become sexually involved. However, studies have proven that comprehensive sexuality education not only reduces risky behavior, but also does not lead to earlier or increased sexual activity among young people.

Some communities struggle over how to present information about sexuality that includes HIV prevention messages. In implementing educational programs, it is crucial is to show respect for all of those involved in the education of young people and to include as many segments of the community as possible in program development.

Peer education, including programs like STAR Theatre, has been proven to be an effective educational approach. Using teen culture and language, STAR Theatre develops a trusting environment in which the audience is more open to receiving information about reducing risks. Still, parents and families are the most important sexuality educators of their children.

Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death offers an entree into the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families; teens who struggle with issues concerning sexual orientation; and the inner conflict many young people experience when making decisions concerning sexuality. This documentary offers families the opportunity to discuss and compare their values with those that are profiled in the video.

A Message from the producer and director of
Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death

Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death is a profile of STAR Theatre, an unusual teenage theater company which uses drama and peer education to help teenagers avoid pregnancy and disease. Recognized by the American Medical Association as one of the nation's most innovative AIDS education programs, STAR Theatre uses a frank peer-to-peer approach to reach adolescents at risk.

When I saw STAR Theatre perform for the first time, I was completely stunned. Instead of experts or authority figures preaching to kids about sex, I saw teens acting out situations that were very real for their peers. I also saw the young performers answering questions from other teenagers with unusual candor, respect, and sensitivity. After my first exposure to STAR, I became convinced that a documentary about this unique theater company could poignantly illustrate how risky and frightening it is to grow up in the age of AIDS. I hope that Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death and the companion Viewer's Guide will not only sound a timely alarm about the realities of teenage sexuality, but also will provide concrete information about how adolescents can reduce risks and avoid pregnancy and AIDS.

Roger Weisberg
Producer/Director, Public Policy Productions

This guide was produced by Thirteen-WNET Educational Resources Center

Ruth Ann Burns, Director

Project Director: Robert A. Miller
Supervising Editor: David Reisman, Ed.D.
Design: David Chomowicz
Writer: Carolyn Patierno, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)
Copy Editor: Stephanie Fleischmann
Photos by Joseph Sinnott

Copyright ©1996 Thirteen/wnet


Cydelle Berlin, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Adolescent AIDS Program, Mount Sinai Medical Center
Founder & Producer, STAR Theatre

Beth Fredrick
Director for Program Operations
The Alan Guttmacher Institute

Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death
Produced and Directed by Roger Weisberg
Editors: Lawrence Silk and Philip Shane
Cinematographer: Alex Zakrzewski
Associate Producer: Wendy Berry
Production Coordinator: Deborah Clancy
Original music composed, arranged, and produced by Michael Levine

STAR Theatre
Cydelle Berlin, Ph.D.: Founder/Producer, STAR Theatre
Ken Hornbeck: Artistic Director
Peggy Jo Brenneman: Associate Artistic Director
Special thanks to the cast members of STAR Theatre.

Sex and Other Matters of life and Death is made possible by the generous support of the Abbot Laboratories Fund, Estate of Frederick Brahms, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Charlpeg Foundation, Inc., Marvin H. Davidson Foundation, Charles A. Frueauff Foundation, Inc., Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation, Inc., Herman Goldman Foundation, Ittleson Foundation, Inc., JENJO Foundation, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, J.M. Kaplan Fund, Patricia Kind, Harvey M. and Constance Krueger, Leonard Litwin, John M. Lloyd Foundation, Loews Foundation, New York Community Trust-Samaratrophia Fund, Henry Nias Foundation, Overbrook Foundation, Frederick and Amelia Schimper Foundation, Silverweed Foundation, Spunk Fund, Inc., Estate of Kent Tiffany, Tisch Foundation, Inc., Trull Foundation, H. van Ameringen Foundation, and Laura B. Vogler Foundation, Inc.

Visit Thirteen/WNET's website at:

To order a cassette of Sex and Other Matters of Life and Death contact:
The Cinema Guild, Inc.,
1697 Broadway, Ste. 506,
New York, NY 10019-5904
Phone (212)246-5522 or toll-free 1-800-723-5522
Fax (212)246-5525 or E-Mail

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This article was provided by Thirteen/WNET New York.
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